Hundreds of county residents provided input that led to detailed roadmap for trail development
The North Kitsap Trails Association (NKTA), an all-volunteer, non-profit organization working to plan, build and maintain land and water trails in north Kitsap County, today announced that it has completed a master plan for non-motorized trails in north Kitsap County.
The plan, officially titled the North Kitsap String of Pearls Trail Plan, represents nearly three years of work by multiple public and private groups throughout the county, as well as hundreds of Kitsap County residents interested in preserving trails in north Kitsap County, said Linda Berry-Maraist, chair of the NKTA's Trail Plan Committee.
"This plan truly is a product of our communities' vision for linking together north Kitsap's unique communities through a trail system that enhances our quality of life by connecting people with natural areas and creating options for active lifestyles," Berry-Maraist said. "The trails we plan and build today will shape a legacy for future generations."
The organization will submit the plan next week to the Kitsap County Planning Commission for review and feedback. It also will be presented for public review in a series of community meetings:
The plan, which received assistance from the National Parks Service, also is available for review online at http://www.northkitsaptrails.org/files/NKTA_TrailPlan_110831.pdf.
Following review and approval by the Planning Commission, the plan will go to the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners for approval. Upon adoption, the plan would become a roadmap for trail planning and development in north Kitsap County, including Bainbridge Island.
The plan offers a thorough analysis of the need for increased trails throughout north Kitsap County, and prioritized actions for moving forward. It recommends actions for acquisition, funding, design, maintenance, and management of the proposed trail system. It also includes profiles of the north Kitsap “pearls” – the communities that would be connected by the trails as well as a detailed summary of the community outreach efforts. Maps, pictures and illustrations are included throughout the 158-page document.
The plan’s centerpiece is a system of land and water trails that connects north Kitsap’s “string of pearls” – the unique communities that make up the northern third of Kitsap County. These trails would link the communities --as well as Tribal lands, parks and private development to provide opportunities for walking, biking, paddling, observing wildlife, horseback riding and non-motorized transportation. The plan includes a regional trail, the Sound to Olympics Trail, connecting Kitsap residents to regional trails in King, Jefferson and Clallam counties, including the Burke-Gilman and Olympic Discovery Trails.
“A vibrant system of trails addresses a need that is increasingly apparent in north Kitsap County – the lack of public open space that enhances the community and local economy with options for exercise, transportation, eco-tourism and enjoyment of beautiful natural settings,” said John Willett, NKTA President.
“Simply put, the String of Pearls Trail Plan defines a regional trail plan that boosts community pride, community connections and our local economy,” Willett said.
Over the past two years, the NKTA collected public input in order to craft a trails plan that reflected opinions of county residents. More than 400 people participated in 27 public meetings and a survey conducted by the NKTA drew more than 700 individual responses. Nearly 95 percent of the respondents said a trail system was important to the quality of life in north Kitsap County. Moreover, walking trails were the No. 1 priority for respondents in every age group that participated in the survey, he said.
“There’s no question that residents in north Kitsap County feel the need for a trail system and believe it will enhance their quality of life, and will contribute the county’s economic situation,” Willett said.
Despite Kitsap County’s efforts to promote itself as “the natural side of Puget Sound,” the county only has two miles of regional trails, Willett said. By contrast there are about 300 miles of regional trails in King County, more than 234 in Pierce, six in Jefferson and 40 in Clallam.
NKTA has played a key role in coordinating ongoing volunteer work that builds and keeps existing trails open at little or no cost to the public. The volunteer stewardship of the recent North Kitsap Heritage Park shows that minimal investment of public funds can be leveraged to achieve great public benefit. The plan acknowledges the county must acquire open space in north Kitsap in order to achieve the community’s String of Pearls vision. An entire section of the plan is devoted to identifying possible funding for acquisition from a variety of sources, private and public.
“The community has clearly conveyed that trails are a high priority. But without public access to and through the nearly 8,000 acres of open space owned by Olympic Property Group (OPG) in north Kitsap, there will be very few trails in north Kitsap,” Willett said.
OPG has long been a proponent of trails in north Kitsap County, Willett said. In 2007, the company proposed a trail system as one of several key elements in a plan for developing its property holdings in the county. More than 500 people turned out for an initial meeting concerning OPG’s trail concept, and voiced strong support for establishing a trails system and permanently retaining public access to OPG’s lands.
OPG has been an active participant in the trails planning process and the development of the master trail plan, Willett said. He also recognized various Kitsap County government agencies and individuals, such as the Kitsap County Health District and former commissioner Steve Bauer, the National Park Service, the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, the City of Poulsbo and the Suquamish Tribe as well as dozens of volunteers in the support and development of the plan.
John Willett, NKTA President
Ph. 360 535 3330
NKTA Trail Plain Committee Chair
Ph. 360 621 3839
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